Kelita Crossland was my paternal great-grandfather. There were some oral memories of him in my family, mainly because my paternal grandfather, Reginald Crossland, had married his cousin Harriet Micklethwaite, in a second marriage. Harriet (b. 1892) was the daughter of Kelita’s daughter, Sarah and had some recollections of him; she also knew stories told about him and his generation by older family members.
In the 1851 Census Kelita is 13 years old, born in 1838, the son of Thomas and Sarah Crossland. It is possible that Sarah had been born Sarah Crowther. They were all born in Middleton, Yorkshire, now part of Leeds; the registration district is Hunslet. The family is listed as Thomas Crossland 44, Sarah Crossland 38, John Crossland 19, Sophia Crossland 17, Henry Crossland 15, Kelita Crossland 13, and Harriat Crossland 10. All the males are described as working in coal mining, except Kelita who, at 13, is employed in a flax mill. In the 1841 Census John, Kelita’s older brother, was already described as a miner at the age of 9. Harriat is described as a ‘scholar’ which means she was in education. The address of their residence is Nova Scotia. This is an area in alongside the Leeds-Liverpool canal, which includes a number of locks. The housing they are living in is probably one of a number of ‘low cottages’.
In May of 1860 Kelita married Sarah Ann Midgley in the parish church of St Thomas, Woolwich. Sarah Ann 22, born in Hunslet, was the daughter of Sarah Harrison and her first husband William Midgley probably a shoemaker. The recently widowed Sarah Harrison had remarried in 1840 to William Newell and soon after Sarah Ann’s half-sister, Ruth Newell had been born. Their official marriage record spells Kelita as “Kalita” maybe reflecting different pronunciations of the name. There is no known reason for the marriage being celebrated in London, but it can be assumed that he was working in London for his employers. An oral recollection from Harriet, his grand-daughter recounted that he traveled as part of his work including a period fitting machinery in Germany for Krupp. This implies that he had considerable skills in his trade.
In the 1871 census Kelita is 32 and is head of a family of six children – Maria Crossland 10, Thomas Crossland 8, James Crossland 6, Sarah Crossland 5, Walter Crossland 3 (my paternal great-grandfather), and William Crossland (no age given). Kelita is described as a machine fitter in ‘the factory’. The address is given as 10, Jericho Street. In the 1891 census his daughter Sarah is married to Joah Micklethwaite and living at 12 Jericho Street.
In the 1881 census his family has increased to include Charles Crossland 7, Elizabeth Crossland 5, and Earnest Crossland 2. The family is still living in Hunslet at I Lom Place. In the 1891 Census, he is at the same address with his wife and four of his children Walter, William, Charles and Elizabeth Ann.
A family recollection passed down to his great-grandson Bernard Crossland suggested that Kelita worked for at least part of his life for Tannett Walker. Engineering was a major industry in Leeds during the 19th century, and Tannett Walker was one of the many important engineering companies providing employment in the area. They built cranes and hydraulic lifting equipment, with notable examples throughout the British Isles. They were certainly installing cranes in London and Goole Docks; there is a belief that a member of the famous German engineering Krupp family was an apprentice with them for a period.
Other memories were from Harriet Crossland who recalled that Sarah Ann Midgley was an aggressive woman, and that Kelita was a heavy drinker. Harriet was born in 1892 and therefore knew Sarah Ann who lived until 1919, and quite possibly remembered Kelita who died in 1898.
The claim that he was a heavy drinker is supported by Kelita’s appearance in the West Riding criminal records in 1866 charged with manslaughter in a case involving the death of David Saville at the hands of Benjamin Smith on a Saturday night in the vicinity of the Rose and Crown Yard in Leeds. David Saville was a young cloth dresser, struck by a fatal blow by Smith, who appears to have been unknown to him. Kelita was accused of inciting the fight with the shout of ‘Let him have it.’ Various witnesses gave different accounts of what appears to have been a late-night drunken fight. He was charged with manslaughter but eventually cleared, however he appears to have been lucky, rather than totally innocent. It is interesting to note that Walter, Kelita’s son, and Walter’s son Reginald were Rechabites – total abstainers who had ‘signed the Pledge.’ Reginald’s son said this was because of the drunkenness that had afflicted Kelita and some of his children. Reginald strongly disapproved of alcohol throughout his life; indeed, at the wedding of his son Bernard in 1946 he demanded that he was given orange juice instead of champagne for the toast. A demand that the bride’s father, Frank Elliott Birks, considered bad mannered.
There was a family rumour that Kelita may have been a Quaker, but no evidence exists to support this claim and his involvement in a drunken fight does not indicate a religious man. His unusual name is a Bible name and obscure Biblical names are not uncommon in Victorian Britain, although it is odd that no other members of the family had especially religious names. He was baptised in Leeds Parish Church (Parish Church of Saint Peter-at-Leeds) on 13th May 1838. His marriage was celebrated in an Anglican Church. In 19th century Leeds there were more dissenters than Anglicans in the working population.
This photograph (supplied by one of William Crossland’s descendents) clearly shows a much older, physically frailer Kelita than the young man in the earlier photograph. Sarah is still recognizable and the younger people are almost certainly their children although there is no indication of their names. It is an obvious ‘occasion’ and the photograph shows them dressed in relatively formal clothes.
On 18th June 1898 the Leeds Times reports ‘an invalid’s lucky escape’ describing how a bedridden Kelita had almost perished when his pipe caught his bedding on fire and he was rescued by a neighbour called Bilcliffe. The last official record is of his death in November 1898 at the age of 60. However, his name lived on, for in 1900 a Kelita Crossland was born in Hunslet. In the 1911 Census he is revealed as the child of Kelita’s son Charles Crossland a general labourer in the local colliery, living in Hunslet along with brothers Walter, Harry and Stanley. He married in 1922 and probably died in 1980.
Harriet also noted that the Midgley family had USA connections to the steel industry and that she herself had spent time in America as a young woman. This connection was through Sarah’s sister, Ruth who Harriet stated was involved in the steel industry. Her mother, Sarah Micklethwaite was traveling on The Mauritania to New York in 1913, with her young son Jessie. In 1903 a widow, Sarah Ann Crossland aged 64 from Hunslet is traveling from Liverpool to Boston on RMS Majestic (records of Ellis Island); it is likely that this is Kelita’s wife on a visit to her sister. In 1912 James Crossland, a riveter of 2 Hall Street is traveling on The Franconia to Boston; this is almost certainly her son who a family story suggests died in New York State in railway accident. Sarah Ann died in Hunslet at the age of 80 in June 1919; in 1911 she was living alone at 6 Hall Street. The fuller story of Ruth Newell appears in on a further page of this site.
Related names Midgley, Whitehead, Rudduck and Micklethwaite
I have corrected this article after useful comments and corrections from Paul Crowther and material provided by Hannah, one of William Crossland’s descendents. If anyone has any knowledge of who the children in the photograph are, please contact me.
Excellent historic photographs, including some of the addresses on this page can be found at
This is an archival project made available by Leeds Library & Information Service; it includes photographs of some of the places associated with Kelita
This site covers various aspects of Hunslet, including history with illustrations of old maps and photographs
The story of Ruth Newell is on my page at